The Continent~~Book Review

This book has had a bumpy start. No one in the publishing industry or Writer Twitter missed all the controversy surrounding this book and the original ARCs people had been able to read last year.The Continent

While I acknowledge that, (I was not one who read an original ARC) those controversies and/or original content of the book are not what this review is about.

I admit I read The Continent primarily because Ms. Drake is a friend of mine on Facebook, and I was curious to see what the book was about. I’m not able to make comparisons between the original content and what was actually published, but I can say I thoroughly enjoyed The Continent.

The book is about Vaela Sun, a 16-year-old girl who is given a tour of The Continent by her parents as a birthday gift. The Continent is home to two peoples, the Xoe and the Aven’ei. Their history is filled with war and violence.

Tours of The Continent are made to view these peoples and their constant war, as war and violence in that extreme are a novelty to the people of the Spire, where Vaela Sun lives and has grown up.

During the tour, Vaela’s plane goes down. Though her parents and their traveling companions perish in the crash, she survives and must make a new life on The Continent.

Luckily, she is taken in hand by Noro, and he, along with his Aven’ei friends, welcome her.

The threat of the Xoe is never far, and we watch as Vaela tries to meld the peace she’s grown up within the Spire to the violence she must tolerate and learn in order to survive.

I’ve read of the racial issues this book supposedly (I say supposedly because again, I haven’t read the original manuscript) contained, and I witnessed none of that here. Race (skin color) of the people of the Spire, Xoe, and Aven’ei take distance place to the story.

We see Vaela lose one family, but with her strength and determination, and never a loss of faith that life can be better, we see her find another.

Vaela learns a lot of lessons during her time on The Continent. The past doesn’t always lay the groundwork for a pleasant future. People deserve second chances, no matter what they’ve done. And with strength and perseverance, something beautiful can always be found in something ugly.

This book is no different. Do not judge this book on what you know or what you think you know about its history.

The Continent is beautiful. It will make you laugh; it will make you cry.

And you will definitely want to find out what happens next.

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And full disclosure, this is the 4-star review I left on Amazon. I was feeling a bit stabby and snarky, and a bit defensive on Keira’s behalf.
Enjoy!

This isn’t a verified purchase because I bought my copy at Barnes and Noble. (LIke you all should, if you don’t want the only remaining bookstore in America to close.)
Anyway, I’ve read the reviews, and this book ISN’T THAT BAD. There isn’t anything racist about this book, and there is not any “white savior” crap going on.
Vaela gets trapped there, okay, yes. And she saves those people, yes. But the fact that everyone is missing is, SHE FELL IN LOVE. She fell in love with Noro, she fell in love with his sister, Kiri, and she fell in love with the rest of the Noro’s people. She made friends, she became one of them. In the end, she was saving her own people.
There’s a lot of talk about her stupidity, and her naivety, but you know, most people who grow up with money are like that. And you can argue all you want against it, but Paris Hilton made herself a brand based on being spoiled, and the Kardashians are doing the same thing.
I’m not arguing that Vaela didn’t have a lot to learn, but her learning that the Spire was not all she thought it was, or that she finally understood she was a spoiled rich kid with an erroneous viewpoint of the Continent’s peoples, were part of the lesson, part of the character growth, part of the plot arc. She crawled to them and begged for help on behalf of her new family, and she was denied. It opened her eyes. And it made her grow up.
Anyone who complains this is slow–hey! It’s part of a trilogy. There are going to be unanswered questions.
Anyone who didn’t like it based on silly little things like, where did that Xoe Warrior find his orange?? How old are you? This is a YA novel. If you want a more complex plot, go read Sing, Unburied, Sing, or Lincoln in the Bardo, or Manhattan Beach. Those might be more up to your delicate sensibilities.

Bared to You by Sylvia Day–A book review

Warning: This review contains spoilers and may contain triggers as the review refers to child molestation.

After the success of Fifty Shades of Grey, numerous books that copied characters and plot were published as quickly as writers could produce them.

crossfire seriesThe Crossfire Series is one of these series. comprised of four novels, I read Bared to You, the first.

The book is about Eva and Gideon, how they meet, their issues, backstories, and all their flaws.

You can’t help but compare Bared to You to Fifty Shades by the very first page, and I do not resist. Eva meets Gideon by literally falling on her ass, and later stumbling into his office, ala Anastasia Steele.

Gideon Cross, seemingly owning half of New York, is extremely emotionally damaged, not to mention drooling hot. I won’t waste time going into how much more or less he’s like Christian Grey because it doesn’t matter. Either you liked Fifty Shades enough to read these or you didn’t. So if you liked Fifty but were put off by the poor writing, you may like the Crossfire Series as they hold similar plot elements and characters, but they are better edited.

Eva is also emotionally damaged, unlike Ana, who was just innocent and naive. Eva has a heartbreaking backstory, and anyone who has triggers regarding children being raped and molested by step-siblings should steer clear of this book.

I do find it rather odd that while Eva has been in therapy most of her life to deal with being sexually assaulted at age ten until she was fourteen by her older stepbrother (and her mother only finding out about it because Eva was brought to the ER for a miscarriage), she has a mainly healthy attitude towards sex. I guess she would have to because she and Gideon do it all the time.

As natural pacing of a four book series, we find Gideon also has a heartbreaking backstory as well, but Day does not reveal what it is saving some secrets for later books.

Overall, if you like Fifty Shades of Grey, and want more of it, by all means, give the Crossfire Series a try. I read Bared to You, but I will not be reading the others. Day, like James, counted on emotional upheaval to keep readers turning pages, and all Eva and Gideon do is fight and have makeup sex.

As perhaps someone who is too old to be reading the series, I need more. More plot. More character motivation.

If they truly do love each other, as they say they do by the middle of the book, then the small spats Day gives such weighty importance to should not do the damage they do.

Maybe books two through four will have more . . .  something, but I don’t need to find out.

 

Genre-hopping: Why writers do it and should they?

Writers need to genre-hop. We need to explore what we like to write and how we want to write it.

I genre-hopped. I stayed within romance, but I explored romantic fantasy and erotica. I explored enough that I knew I didn’t want to write them anymore–and that is the whole point of genre-hopping. I settled into contemporary romance, and that’s where I’ll stay.

But say you want to build your writing career, actually make some money selling your books. It’s important to your customers they know what they are getting when they think of your name. Like what Stephen King is to horror, or what Danielle Steele is to romance, you want to build your brand on your name and be consistent with what you’re selling.

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Do readers really know what they are getting when they buy one of your books?

I remember clicking on a romance author on Amazon. I can’t remember her name, and I wouldn’t call her out anyway, but she had several books published. When I went through them, though, some were written in first-person, some in third. Some in present tense, some in past. Maybe you like her third person past books, but when she releases a new book or if you try to read through her backlist, you may not always like what you buy. Maybe then you don’t read it, or you slog through it because you spent money on it and you don’t want it to go to waste.

Is this how you want your readers to feel about your work?

I started thinking about this because I wondered how the big names do it. How did Stephenie Meyer go from the Twilight series to The Host to The Chemist? Was it seamless for her because adults read Twilight, so her adult fiction wasn’t a departure from her original work? Or did she lose millions of readers because the teenagers enamored by Edward and Bella had no use for her adult fiction?

Is genre-hopping like jumping from a cliff--career suicide_

Photo by nour c on Unsplash

I think about Nora Roberts, too. She writes under a pen name as well, but under Nora Roberts, she writes contemporary romance with maybe a bit of paranormal or magic thrown in. She’s well known for her trilogies, and she has many contemporary standalones to her credit. But her newest release under her name is a post-apocalyptic called Year One. Does Nora have a big enough audience that they will read whatever she writes, or will she lose readers who are not interested in a new genre? Would she have been better off releasing this new book, which is the first in a trilogy, under a new pen name? I guess until reviews and sales numbers come in (there are a few 1-star reviews that indicate that some readers aren’t happy she took a detour), we won’t know. I admire her for spreading her writing wings and trying something new, and by now, maybe she doesn’t care if her career takes a ding because she took a chance.

No matter how much I preach you have to write with your reader in mind, you still have to like what you’re writing.

There are other reasons for genre-hopping, but you have to decide if it’s right for your brand:

1. Maybe the genre you write in is dead or not selling. Trends come and go, and if you can quickly write a book and publish it, perhaps you can ride the high of the next new thing.

2. You’ve depleted your ideas. Maybe you have no choice because if you didn’t genre-hop, you wouldn’t be able to write anymore.

3. Maybe a complete plot fell into your head, and you don’t want to waste the idea.

4. You have an opportunity to collaborate with an up-and-coming author in a different genre, and you are excited by the chance of exposure.

One of the problems I see indies having is they aren’t thinking about their books as abusiness for authors business. Joanna Penn, on a podcast I listened to a while back, said her Business for Authors book is her poorest selling book and she can’t understand why. I know why–because indies don’t like to think of their books as a business (yet they are quick to pout when their books don’t sell).

Think of this analogy: Say you have a favorite chocolate store; you go there all the time. You know the owner, you love the chocolate. But one day you take the time to drive there, and they don’t sell chocolate anymore. The store is full of baseball cards. You get disgusted, not to mention confused AF, and leave.

Do you go back? Maybe once to see if they started selling chocolate again, but when you find out that they haven’t, you won’t go back.

Or maybe you want your books to be like a flea market. Something for everyone. Or will you end up with nothing for no one? You never know what you’ll find at a flea market.

I used to be super against genre-hopping, and for my brand, I still am. I want to be known for contemporary romance written in the third person. When I use the pre-order feature, I want my readers to get excited that I have a new book being released because they’ll know exactly what kind of book it will be.

I don’t want my readers to look at my pre-order like it’s a white elephant sale.

If you decide to genre-hop and publish under your name, you’ll have to market it differently, and you’ll have to be prepared for readers to be unhappy if they inadvertently read something they didn’t mean to. Take this comment from this blog post:

blog comment

Her reluctance to use a pen name is costing her reviews. Well, one, but maybe more in the future. Where do you cross the line between knowing you need a pen name, or not to genre hop, and when to keep going? You would think that readers would be able to tell between racy and sweet by looking at the covers, reading the blurbs. But on the same token, don’t you want everyone who likes you to read everything you ever write?

Unfortunately, I paid for the ISBN numbers for the genre-hopping books I published. Maybe one day I’ll yank them because as my backlist grows, they will not fit into my library. It’s the price I’ll have to pay for not thinking ahead, or for experimenting and actually publishing them.

Maybe you won’t care, and that’s okay. We all do what we need to do to achieve our goals.

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Where do you want your book business to go?

So think where you want to be in five years, in ten. How will your genre-hopping fit into your plans?

It’s never too early to plan–or do damage control.

Do you have thoughts on genre-hopping and pen names? Let me know!

Other articles about genre-hopping:

Genre Glue

Thinking About Writing in Multiple Genres? Here’s What You Need to Know

The Pros and Cons of Switching Genres — Guest: Summerita Rhayne

Happy writing Vania Margene

Write Naked: A Bestseller’s Secrets to Writing Romance & Navigating the Path to Success by Jennifer Probst–A book review

Every writer could use a guidebook, a map, perhaps a mentor who can say, “If it were me I do this.”

I read Write Naked: A Bestseller’s Secrets to Writing Romance & Navigating the Path to Success last year, but as a series of book reviews I’m starting for my blog, I pulled it out again and reread some of my favorite chapters.write naked

In Write Naked, Jennifer Probst takes you through from the beginning of her career, when she didn’t think she would make it, to present time, when indeed she has made it, evidence being she’s able to add best-selling author after her name.

It’s gratifying to know that even a best-selling author has fears, flaws, and has made mistakes, but being she has made it to the other side, she also gives us tips and tricks to overcome our fears and if you really want this thing called a writing career, what to do to achieve it.

Some of my favorite chapters include:

Chapter 4
Green With Envy
Jennifer acknowledges that yes, writing is a community, but that community is steeped in jealousy, cruelty, and fear. I see it on Twitter. I read it in a poor book review by another author, sometimes even a malicious review. I see it in the passive-aggressive interactions between me and my other writer friends. Pretty soon you don’t know whom to trust, who really is happy for you and your success. Jennifer writes a chapter on this–a very honest and forthcoming chapter. She says on page 34 of the paperback  . . .  “jealousy . . .  is an endless vicious cycle.” Don’t let it consume you; there will always be someone doing better than you, and you will always be doing better than someone else.

Chapter 5
The Write Path
1. You’ll make mistakes. Costly mistakes.
2. Overnight success is never overnight.
3. Once you reach the top, there is nowhere to go but down.

This may seem like a downer of a chapter, and perhaps it is. Jennifer reminds you that a writer’s journey is tough. There is a reason why writing is compared to running a marathon or climbing a mountain. Your journey takes a ton of preparation–years of writing, years of learning the craft, refining your work. It takes many books. One foot in front of the other for years. Then what do you do when you reach the top of the mountain? When you bury a flagpole in the summit and can call yourself a success? You climb down and do it all over again.

Chapter 8
Trademarks of Bestselling Authors
There are no shortcuts. Sit down, do the work. But what is the work? Jennifer, along with other romance authors, gives you an idea of what it takes to get where they are. This chapter includes writing advice, networking tips, and thinking about writing as a career, not a hobby.

Chapter 12
The Indie Revolution
Jennifer did publish as an indie author, and she gives her readers a few tips on how to publish a good book. You may not like what she has to say, but all of her advice has merit. Probably the biggest takeaway from this chapter is indies need to remember they are writing for readers. You want and need them to like your books. Publish accordingly.

Toward the end of the book, say the last third or fourth, Jennifer goes into what makes a romance book an addicting read. Snappy first lines, lovable characters. Setting up and delivering on a hook, keeping up the sexual tension, keeping your middle from sagging. She touches very briefly on all these and more, so if you think you have any of these issues in your own writing, find other craft books to study with, because these chapters tell you what I know many don’t want to hear – write a good book and keep reader expectations in mind as you write. As with any genre, there are tropes and rules you must follow, or all you’ll do is make your reader mad, and that could result in a bad review.

Jennifer’s last chapter is Happy Endings. She coaches you on how to end your book on the best note possible. But finishing one book isn’t the end! There will always be another book to write, another mountain to climb, another race to run.

Jennifer-Probst-2-1Jennifer won her gold medal, and she tries for another every time she sits down to write.

I recommend reading this book in its entirety, and I pull it out every now and again for a pick-me-up or a reality check.

You can find it on Amazon here.

Thanks for reading! Do you have any books from authors you like to read that give you tips or a much-needed reality check? Let me know!

 

Happy writing Vania Margene

 

 

Results of my ad with Freebooksy

I figured with a few books out now, I should do a little marketing. I’ve been against it, claiming I needed a backlist before I started putting money into my career, but I thought since my trilogy was done, I could do a little promotion.

I’ve heard about various book marketing websites where you pay for exposure, and that’s what Freebooksy is. Essentially, you’re paying to advertise your book in their newsletter for one day. There are other promotions run by the people of Freebooksy if you don’t want to to go free with your book, but I did because 1) it didn’t bother me to give my book away and 2) I was hoping for a little read-through since the other two books were available.

My trilogy is enrolled in KDP Select, and I had never used any of my free days for any of my books before, so I went ahead and chose five days for my book to be free, then I went on Freebooksy and chose a day that I wanted my book in their newsletter. In the future, if I do this again, I’ll plan ahead to give myself time to promote the promotion.

A rep reached out to me, and she was very nice, but she wanted to put my book in the sweet category romance newsletter. I replied that it didn’t belong there as the book had four open door sex scenes. I’m not sure why she wanted to do that, unless she mistook my cover. Nikki and Dane do look cute together, but I didn’t choose to put a steamy couple on the cover because there is a fine line between contemporary romance with sex, and erotica. I didn’t want anyone mistaking my trilogy for erotica. I’ve written erotica, had my “taste” so to speak, and I’m more comfortable writing contemporary romance.

Anyway, this is what the ad looked like that went into their newsletter:

freebooksyad

You’re the one who writes the blurb, and I was afraid I didn’t spend enough time on it. You only get so many characters, and it’s difficult to try to convey what the book is about and still make it interesting in that short space.

My book was free from February 6th to the 10th. I started getting downloads even before my book went out in the newsletter. In total, while my book was free, I gave away 4,458. Between February 6th and today, February 15th, I have sold fifteen of Book 2 and six of Book 3, so you can see there was a small amount of buy-through (not necessarily read-through), and I lowered the prices of those books to .99 to go with the free promotion. Also, my page reads for Kindle Unlimited for all my titles went up from 0 to this:

page reads for KU

It’s not the best, of course, since even all those lines only represent $25.00 in sales. If you do the math, that’s a horrible ROI, at least, on paper.

Return on investment comes in many different forms, monetary being only one of them. I’m hoping now that I’ve given away so many books, people will remember my name, I’ll begin to foster some lifelong readers for future books.

My sales ranking did go up for a little bit, and I can give you a snapshot of those, though I didn’t take a picture every time my book moved up in ranks. And as everyone congratulated me, going up in rank in *free* books looks nice, but it’s not the same as going up in the paid lists.

awesome stats!3

These are the best stats the book got. I don’t know if it did much more than earn me a few bragging rights, but there it is.

Amazon did a nice thing, too and put my books together in an ad on my Author page.

tower city box set

You can’t buy them that way–I haven’t created the box set yet, and that is on my to-do list after I figure out my stupid cover for book three. (Yeah, still wrestling with it to get it exactly how I want it in paperback.)

If you were to ask me the best part about this whole promotion thing, I would have to say that it’s that people are starting to read my work. We all want people to read our stuff, but when they actually do, it’s nerve-wracking. So far I’ve been getting decent reviews. They’ve been saying my editing is solid, and there hasn’t been a complaint about formatting, which is a relief since I do all my own formatting myself.

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Overall, I would say the experience was a positive one.

If I were to give any advice to someone doing this I would say:

  1. Have more than one book out. I did prove that if you spend money advertising one book, you’re really advertising your whole backlist. Not many people bought books 2 and 3 who downloaded book 1, but it was enough I was happy they were available.
  2. Having a good cover is no joke. It doesn’t seem like a big deal when no one is looking at your books, but the minute you realize people are going to be choosing your book among a selection, suddenly you’re hoping it’s good enough. Be sure it is.
  3. Have a decent blurb. I shortened mine from what I wrote for Amazon, and I worried I didn’t spend enough time on it. Had I spent more time on it, maybe I could have gotten even more downloads.
  4. Have people willing to spread the word. I don’t know how many downloads came from my Twitter followers, or my followers willing to tweet about it. I don’t know how many downloads came from the people who liked my FB Author Page. I was also naughty and told everyone on my personal FB page that my book was free, and I know it’s against TOS to do that. I only did it once, on the day the newsletter went out. And I was lucky a few people shared that post.

I won’t be doing this again anytime soon, but it was fun to try something new and to get my feet wet. A little snowflake can cause an avalanche, and I’m hoping this is true in my case. But now that my trilogy is over and done, I need to relegate it to my backlist and move forward. I’m 31,000 words into a new WIP, and I can’t wait to share with you!

Happy writing Vania Margene

Indie Book Reviews: My Unpopular Opinion

There’s been a lot of talk lately about writing indie book reviews. You know, it’s a kind thing to do, you’re giving the book a bump in the Amazon algorithms. You see it everywhere on Twitter: support an author, leave a review.

And I’ll be honest, when I jumped into the indie world, I read a lot of indie books. I was supporting my Twitter friends. But when you are just starting out, when you’re new to Writer Twitter, the thing that no one tells you is that there are bad books out there. Maybe I was naive, maybe I was just inexperienced. I was in awe of anyone who had published books. I hadn’t been exposed to the indie world, and I had no idea that a published book could be bad.

So I bought books, tweeted I was reading them, showed my support. The only problem was, some of them were good, some were okay, some were dumpster fires.

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Then I would have to write a review. I admit, I wrote a handful of 5-star reviews for books that were mediocre. (I realize that is a moral dilemma for some, and I have stopped doing it since it’s not fair to anyone). There was a lot of telling, or the characters were flat. Maybe a plot hole here and there.

After I bought two books in a row that I did not finish (DNF), I stopped buying indie completely. Because let’s face it, indie books are expensive. I buy paperback, and to get any kind of royalty, CreateSpace makes you price your book at a ridiculous price. So spending $17.99 on a book I won’t finish is a blow to my wallet.

But lately, the review talk is getting out of hand. While writing a positive review for a book that is well-written and well-edited is one thing, writing a negative review for a book that isn’t good is something else.

What makes a book bad?

Poor or complete lack of editing
The formatting is wonky, so wonky that it takes away from the reading experience
Flat characters
Plot holes
An all-around boring story

I’ve read my share, and if you read indie, you have too. I once read a book that had so many typos in it, I used it as a proofreading exercise (a quick run through Grammarly could have fixed 80% of those mistakes). I’ve read two books that I did not finish because the formatting was so terrible I couldn’t focus on the story. I read one book where nothing happened for three chapters. I was still waiting by chapter four and eventually toss the book aside.

Did I write bad reviews for any of those books? No, I didn’t. Did I reach out to those authors, my friends? No, I didn’t.

See, here’s the thing that you probably won’t agree with, but something that I live by:

When I pick up a book at Target, Walmart, Barnes and Noble, I’m picking up a traditionally published book. I’m reading a book that has been read several times by an agent, by several (and different kinds at that) editors. If the book is bad, say unlikeable characters, maybe a slight plot hole, or just a boring story, several people are to blame for the all the book lacks. I’m also reading that book as a readerI don’t know the author, probably. I’ll never interact with them. I can leave an honest review, and for a traditionally published book on GoodReads I have left, you know, two or three stars (which technically isn’t a bad review anyway).

When I read indie, I’m doing it because they are my friends, or I know them peripherally, or I thought it looked good and picked it up in a show of support. What do you get when you purchase an indie book?

Maybe something that hasn’t been edited all that great due to cost, resources, what have you. Most times editing is a favor, and it’s not always done by someone who knows how to edit.
A book that has a cover that was maybe done by the author to save a few bucks. I do my own covers, and I like to think they look decent. I know decent isn’t what we’re aiming for here, and I realize that if I wrote in any genre other than Romance, I would have to pay to have my covers done. Romance is the only genre you can get away with slapping a kissing couple on the front and adding the title and your name and be able to call it good.
A book that hasn’t been properly formatted. This has always bothered me because CreateSpace has free templates for you to download. And there are lovely templates you can purchase at a low cost you can use over and over again. Copy and paste your book into it, and you’re done. You’ve got your headers, footers, the pages where there should be numbers, and where they shouldn’t be. Gutters, margins. The templates aren’t perfect, and I’ve had to tweak mine, but even just using a template as a starting point will put you ahead of hundreds of authors who don’t know they exist or are too stubborn to use them. Pick up a trad-published book for God’s sake. Copy it. Page numbers, title, author name in the headers and footers. Full-justify the damn thing. Take out the auto spacing between paragraphs. A 200-page book shouldn’t be 600 pages. It costs money, for you and your customers, to print all that space. Stop it.

But you know what, a review is not the place to say all this. By the time the book is published, it’s too late. It’s not your job. You might say, well I have to warn other readers, or I’m giving my feedback.

When you read an indie, you are doing so as a writer, and that is not the same as reading a book as a reader. It’s not the same. When you read indie, you are peer-reviewing their books, and giving a poor review is a low blow. Reach out to them in a DM if you absolutely must, but be prepared for the backlash.

Look, there are a lot of readers out there, and eventually the book you want to “leave feedback on” will receive an honest review from someone the author doesn’t know. That’s an honest review, and maybe if your friend receives enough of them, they’ll pull the book and have it edited, or whatever.

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This blog post is really long, and I haven’t even touched on the thing that makes me the maddest. I’ll write another blog post about it. But anyway, I don’t leave bad reviews for the simple fact that I am a nobody in the world of indie publishing. I don’t have thousands of sales, I don’t make six-figures. And when I do become an authority, I still won’t leave reviews. I’ll write blog posts like this.

Let’s try to save these books before they are published. Instead of reviewing, maybe offer to beta read, be a CP. Tweet informational articles about formatting. If you find services you like, tweet about it! Share when you find a paperback interior template that you LOVE. Share tips, tricks. A good editor that doesn’t cost an arm and a leg. Maybe you can get the information out there; even if you can help one person, it’s worth it.

It’s hell for an author to pull a book to fix it, and by then, their reputation may already be ruined. All it takes is one book for a reader to be turned off by an author, forever.

Let’s stop it before it starts. It can only help all of us.

no one heals themsevles by wouding another

Tell me if you leave bad reviews. Feel bad about it? Proud of yourself for being honest? Let me know!

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